The final two installments of Lifetime’s Surviving R. Kelly docuseries series ended with a pair of bombshell revelations about the imprisoned singer’s controversial marriage to a then-underage Aaliyah. The two episodes that debuted on Monday and Tuesday, focused in on Kelly’s 2022 federal trial, which included allegations that the singer and his team allegedly forced Aaliyah’s family to sign a non-disclosure agreement in the wake of the annulment of the performers’ brief marriage.
Kelly and Aaliyah were married in secret in August 1994 when the “Rock the Boat” singer was just 15, even though their marriage certificate listed her age as 18; the marriage was reportedly annulled by Aaliyah’s parents in Feb. 1995. Interviews with some of Kelly’s and Aaliyah’s entourages revealed some of the details of the NDA, which reportedly came after Aaliyah’s father was incensed by the marriage.
Longtime friend and former bodyguard Gem Pratt told the Surviving team that Aaliyah’s family signed a contract with Kelly that promised they would not press charges against him for the illegal marriage after the annulment if Kelly promised to sell them the rights to his first three albums. During last year’s federal trial a jury found Kelly guilty on three counts of child pornography and three counts of enticing a minor to engage in sexual activity; Aaliyah was referred to as Jane Doe #1 at that trial.
“Her dad [Michael Haughton] didn’t want her anywhere near him,” Pratt said in the series about wanting to put distance between Kelly, who was 27 at at the time of the marriage, and Aaliyah, whose debut album, Age Ain’t Nothing But a Number — released when she was 14 — was produced and mostly written by Kelly. The stories of Kelly and Aaliyah’s secret marriage were rumored at the time, but the final episodes of the Lifetimes series put the details of the aftermath into sharper focus.
They include allegations about members of Kelly’s inner circle allegedly looking the other way at Kelly’s abuse of women girls and young men over decades, with Pratt saying that “He [Kelly] couldn’t do this by himself… it’s clear as day there were enablers.” Variety noted that the Aaliyah NDA came up during Kelly’s 2022 New York trial, though it did not receive widespread media coverage at the time; Chicago reporter Jim DeRogatis originally broke the news of the NDA, telling the New York Times Popcast podcast in 2018 that the agreement was a “harrowing document… A non-disclosure agreement on both her part and Kelly’s, vowing not to pursue further legal claims for physical abuse. So, it wasn’t just an underage sexual relationship, he hit her, allegedly, according to that court document.”
A lawyer for Kelly had not returned Billboard‘s request for comment about the NDA at press time and Kelly has maintained his innocence and is appealing the convictions.
In Sept. 2021, Kelly was found guilty in a New York trial of nine counts, including racketeering and 14 underlying acts including sexual exploitation of a child, kidnapping, bribery and sex trafficking charges, as well as eight counts of violating the sex trafficking law known as the Mann Act. In June 2022, Kelly, 55, was sentenced to 30 years in prison; the singer is still facing additional sentencing in Chicago as well as pending felony sex crime charges in Minnesota.
The final chapters of producer/director Dream Hampton’s Surviving series also included new allegations of Kelly’s sexual abuse from a survivor named Ebonié Doyle, who claimed she was raped by Kelly just days after his marriage to Aaliyah. Doyle said she was 16 when Kelly’s limo pulled up on her after one of his shows, setting off a relationship that resulted in her mother kicking Doyle out of the house when she discovered it.
After moving in with Kelly, Doyle said she became subject to Kelly’s “controlling” ways, which included forcing her to sit in a specific sexual position for hours until her posture was to his liking. At the time there were whispers about the singer’s relationship with the underage Aaliyah — Doyle noticed she and the singer were similar in stature and appearance — and said at one point she found a sex tape featuring Kelly and Aaliyah. When Kelly found out that she’d seen the tape, Doyle said he pushed her down a flight of stairs.